Thursday, 16 February 2017

I've Just Seen: E. T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

 Director: Steven Spielberg

2016 saw me plug several large holes in my movie viewing. One of these was E.T., which it has taken me twenty-six years to see. Why, you may ask, did my childhood not include this landmark family film? Errrr... I will blame my parents (who did show me Star Wars at age seven, so go figure). I do wonder how I would have responded to it if I had been younger; in all honesty, I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it as much as I did seeing it as an adult. E.T. would have scared me as a child, but now I can appreciate his adorableness.

Spielberg knows how to balance entertainment and emotion in his films. Almost all of them have a moment of wonder, a scene that excites you but also moves the story on. That moment in E.T. is the flying bicycle across the moon, which naturally is the movie poster. It is still one of the most iconic shots in film history, and beautifully captures the film's themes of adventure in your own backyard, and the power of friendship.

The child actors in the film are all well cast, especially Henry Thomas as Elliott and Drew Barrymore as Gertie. Thomas has to give a performance of great emotional depth, and his scene at E.T. deathbed is something a few adult actors would struggle with. He handles it wonderfully.

Aspects of this reminded me of the way Pixar approaches films supposedly aimed at children. Both Pixar and Spielberg take the lives and emotions of children seriously, and trust them to cope with the sadder parts of life, like loss of loved ones. They also choose to see the world from the eyes of a child: a place of both wonderful things to discover, and fears to overcome.


  1. I did not get to watch ET either as a child, but I think it simply because we lived in the middle of nowhere. Everybody in school had those ET dolls with a glowing finger and cried "E.T. phone home" and I had no idea what this was all about. As a result I read the book instead and I suppose I found the movie a bit disappointing as a result when I finally watched it. That is how it usually is when you read the book first.
    You have a good point about taking children serious in movies. Children related movies only really work when they do that.

    1. Ah, the dreaded book-film curse!
      All the kids' films I've enjoyed, like Matilda, Coraline, all of Miyazaki's films, they treat children as intelligent beings who are film fans in the making. They don't think beauty is wasted on them, and neither does Spielberg.